City Councilors on Tuesday presided over a packed agenda, which included a report on downtown vibrancy, Raleigh’s newest bus station and an apartment complex proposed near Meredith College on Hillsborough Street.
In January, downtown developer Greg Hatem addressed the city regarding concerns over some of the negative impacts of the recent influx of bars and restaurants into the downtown area. Hatem criticized the noise and debris these bars attracted, and called for more retail development.
In response to Hatem’s comments, city staff was asked to prepare a plan that would assess the elements involved in the growth of downtown Raleigh.
Assistant city manager Marchell Adams David presented that plan on downtown vibrancy to Councilors Tuesday, which looked at some of the challenges that the growth of downtown brings with it. Among these challenges were public safety, public health, outdoor dining and amplified noise permits.
Maj. Counsel of the Raleigh Police Department spoke about the challenges of policing late night establishments, which often includes the assistance of off-duty police officers. He said the staff members of the establishments and the RPD were in talks about how to address the situation.
“I can tell you that the staff in the downtown district and us are excited to be having these conversations,” Counsel said.
City staff will continue to review policies regarding the city’s plans for growth and expansion, and councilors will have to decide whether to approve a number of amplified noise permits in the Fayetteville Street corridor.
Union Station Cost Rises
Roberta Fox of the city’s Planning Department presented councilors with an update on the Union Station development. Although Fox said the project team had done everything they could to limit costs while still maintaining all of the station’s necessary elements, the city will end up paying an extra $12 million for it. The overall cost of the project now stands at around $79.8 million.
Fox told councilors that staff’s recommendation was to cover these additional costs by using up to $7.9 million in savings from the Falls of Neuse Road improvement project and by issuing $5.05 million in two thirds bonds. The bonds will not require voter approval.
After an initial analysis showed expenditures increasing by more than $16 million due to utility costs and rising property values, staff managed to make a number of alterations to the plans in order to drive this number down.
These changes include a reduction in scope for a number of items such as the platform and a proposed Stormwater Garden, as well as the allowance of bid alternates for certain elements of the station.
Councilor John Odom talked about the overall benefit of the project, saying the finished Raleigh Union Station would generate a half-million dollars in revenue each year. Within a decade, he said, the city would have covered costs and started gaining money from the project.
A vote for new spending on the project was approved unanimously.
Meredith Heights Denied
Zoning case Z-35-13, which has been met with neighborhood opposition since it first appeared before the planning commission last year, was denied approval by city council on Tuesday night after developers and residents failed to reach a compromise.
The case concerned a 2.18 acre property on Hillsborough Street between Furches and Montgomery Streets. The developer, Cedar Forks Investment, sought to build a large apartment building, Meredith Heights, on the property.
When the project was presented to planning commission in March of 2014, attorney Thomas Worth represented the neighborhood opposition and referred to the proposed plans as “just this side of shocking.”
Mack Paul, the lawyer for the applicant, stated that a new development plan would be submitted to the city very soon.
“Every site is different,” Paul said. “We understand that. We’re looking forward to working with the neighbors on something different.”
Councilors took no action on another controversial rezoning case, Z-1-14, deciding to hold it for two weeks while a traffic study is prepared.
Z-1-14 would allow for the creation of a shopping center in North Raleigh off Falls of Neuse Road. Local activists and area residents have protested the project from its start, arguing that the development was too large for the neighborhood and would create significant traffic problems.
Planning Commission Steven Schuster spoke to councilors about the tension between developing high-intensity properties near neighborhoods.
“Our comprehensive plan is calling for a denser city,” Schuster said. “And everyone is in support of that — until it’s right next to [their] house.”
Appropriately enough, councilors on Tuesday also heard a report from city staff on advancing green infrastructure and low impact development throughout the city. Low impact development was stated as an approach that reduces stormwater runoff volume.
The work plan contained seven items that would position the city in developing green infrastructure and low impact development. The items, with council approval, would take 10 months to implement and cost $346,000. It was noted that the work plan is consistent with the overall 2030 Comprehensive Plan.
Councilors expressed their desire that the project moving quicker. The work plan and the items contained within it were approved.